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Turkey Creek, Epitome of Sprawl

December 7, 2008

Turkey Creek is the largest single commercial development ever built in the metropolitan area of Knoxville, TN. Designed for mixed use and beautifully landscaped, Turkey Creek boasts more than 300 acres of space zoned for retail shopping outlets, medical facilities, theaters, office space, banks, restaurants and hotels. The developers of Turkey Creek also created a 58 acre nature preserve and designed greenways throughout the site.


Turkey Creek, Knoxville, TN

The preceding paragraph is from the Turkey Creek website. Before I moved to Knoxville, I did alot of online research about the city. Every website I read about Knoxville expounded the virtues of Turkey Creek. Then, after I moved, everyone I talked to gushed about how great Turkey Creek was. I had to go see this utopian development for myself to see what all the buzz was about.

When I got there, I drove around for what seemed like forever trying to figure out how it was laid out, but I just seemed to get lost in its expansive sea of parking lots. I tried to figure out where one would park and then spend the day walking around. I couldn’t figure it out, because there were no pedestrian linkages between the different parts of the development. There was a four-lane road through the middle of the development, which would be dangerous to cross on foot (See aerial photo above).

I knew I was in yet another urban sprawl development that threw around buzz-words like “mixed use” and “greenspace.” I felt a sense of deja-vu. I had been here before, yet I had never been here before. I looked left and saw Walmart, Target, PetsMart, and Old Navy. I looked right and saw Borders, Office Max, Belk, and Pier 1. There was nothing unique about Turkey Creek. It was just another chain store, big box laden shopping center like everywhere else in the country. It reminded me of The Pavilion in Fayetteville, GA (See aerial photo below).

The Pavillion

The Pavilion, Fayetteville, GA

Frankly, I was repulsed by Turkey Creek. I couldn’t leave quickly enough, and I haven’t been back since. It’s the embodiment of urban sprawl at its worst. What used to be forest or farm land is now asphalt and concrete. How ironic it is that the website proclaims, “The developer created a 58 acre nature preserve…” [emphasis mine] when in reality the developer eliminated 300 acres of what was already a nature preserve.

Knoxville suffers badly from urban sprawl. Urban sprawl, by its very nature, is not conducive to being livable and walkable. It creates a car-dependent culture. Turkey Creek, even within itself, is not walkable. Even it it were, one would have to drive to it. It is absolutely not mixed use, as the website claims. It is 100% commercial space. True mixed use development has all uses intermixed amongst one another. Until cities wake up and realize that their current zoning classes, which separate commercial from residential from industrial from institutional uses, they will always be car-dependent.

  1. The Byronic Hero permalink
    July 2, 2009 6:00 pm

    > What used to be forest or farm land is now asphalt and concrete.

    I’m sure you know by now – it used to be a wetland.
    I was in high school when the Walmart was built and attended the meetings, protests, etc. – there was nothing that could be done; it was going to happen, period.

    As a fun fact, the whole thing was initially planned as more or less just the Walmart area. The developer… somehow… accidentally… paved way too much. So, they paid a mighty (read: tiny) fine, and went with a “well gee, guess we have to develop it into something now” mentality. Then they probably went out to get a drink together.

    Two artificial wetlands were built in a leapfrog fashion from the Turkey-Creek Mall-Conveniently-Located-Outdoors-Complex – and they are both failing magnificently (as 90% of artificial wetlands do). They should both be dry in the next 3-4 years.

    Now that the theater exists, it shines like a bright neon beacon of everything that is wrong with the Western way of life; it lights the sky on fire and blocks out all stars. Walking around in the painful hours of the morning, around 3 am; everything feels so empty. In South Florida, I had thought that the concept of “sprawl” was a familiar one – and I was mistaken. This is the definition of sprawl. A stand-alone PacSun next to a stand-alone Victoria’s Secret next to a Borders next to a diamond store next to a plus fashion store and 16 other stores across the street from a Walmart that is next to a Super Target that is next to a Bed Bath and Beyond next to an 18 screen theater built next to a golfing community… that is my new definition of Sprawl. Enough to qualify it with a capital letter. If you were last there in last 2008 – you haven’t seen anything yet. It grew, like cancer, and continues to metastasize.

    My last fun fact is that the town of Farragut (where I live and where this monstrosity exists) has an income breakdown that looks something like:
    Male: $78,000
    Female: $18,000

    Trophy wives are awesome.

    Maybe you’ll never read this – or maybe you get WordPress updates – but I thought I’d add a few words from somebody who has nothing but animosity for the cogs that perpetuate this town to “something better”.

  2. July 2, 2009 6:42 pm

    Thanks for the comment. How did you find the blog?

  3. The Byronic Hero permalink
    July 3, 2009 5:32 pm

    I was in the middle of a conversation with somebody about urban sprawl – I wanted to give them a rather good example (if not one of the best examples), so I was looking for a few facts that I had forgotten to append to my Turkey Creek Learn-In.

    One was that Knoxville is one of the Top 10 cities for urban sprawl (asphalt divided by population). Another was that 5% of America is paved. I think I added the whole “we have more food places per capita than… everywhere” stat; but I haven’t had a chance to update that statistic since 2007; so we may have lost that title (doubtful, but possible).

    The particular tidbits that I was looking for were:

    o Knox County is ~20 miles by ~20 miles in size.
    o So, how many miles of road do you think Knox Co. has?

    [guess. don’t peek. seriously.]

    If you guessed “Around 3,000 miles of paved road” – you would be correct.

    Ironically, [“Turkey Creek” sprawl] leads to this as the first result in Google.

  4. gadgets (be/nl) permalink
    December 7, 2011 8:31 am

    Awesome blog! Do you have any hints for aspiring writers? I’m planning to start my own site soon but I’m a little lost on everything. Would you recommend starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many options out there that I’m completely overwhelmed .. Any tips? Kudos!

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